Metro Weekly

Louisiana lawmakers could kill anti-bestiality bill in order to preserve anti-gay sodomy laws

Opponents of bill insist law should remain as is, because it's an expression of the state's "community morals"

Cows in Cajun Country, Louisiana – Photo: Carol M. Highsmith.

The status of an anti-bestiality bill in Louisiana remains uncertain after some Republican lawmakers are threatening to scuttle it in order to keep a now-defunct ban on sodomy on the books.

The bill, proposed by Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans) would decouple the ban on consensual adult sodomy and ban on bestiality that jointly comprise the state’s “crimes against nature” statute, and set up a separate portion of the law that more explicitly bans bestiality.

The new portion of the law would also require mental evaluations for people who engage in sex with animals, and provides penalties for sex and trafficking of animals for sex, reports the Associated Press.

But even though the Senate passed the bill, 25-10, the defections of those 10 Republican lawmakers signaled that Morrell could have a  fight on his hands, particularly if House Republicans choose to kill the bill.

At the heart of the objections is concern that decoupling the sodomy law from the anti-bestiality provision is a sneaky way to remove the sodomy law — which was rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas.

Republicans insist the sodomy ban needs to stay in place because it is a statement of the state’s opposition to homosexuality.

“This bill was written because the far left wants wants to undermine our other laws that protect family and traditional values that the people of Louisiana hold dear,” Sen. Ryan Gatti (R-Bossier City) said to justify his opposition to the bill. “That was our concern, that it most likely will be used as a Trojan horse to delete the sodomy law.”

Leighann Lassiter, the director of animal cruelty policy at the Humane Society of the United States, says that other states have pushed for similar laws, and yet they’ve never met the level of opposition that Morrell’s bill has met in Louisiana.

Gene Mills, the leader of the Louisiana Family Forum, is also whipping up opposition to the bill, insisting that it is a trick by liberals to give tacit approval to homosexual acts. Mills says he believes the bill goes too far by decoupling the anti-sodomy and anti-bestiality provisions, and that the current “crimes against nature” law reflects the “community morals” of the state of Louisiana.

Morrell insists that he is not trying to remove the prohibition on consensual sodomy, and, according to the Times-Picayune, even urged Senate lawmakers to reject an amendment that would have removed the anti-sodomy provision. He also agreed to amend the bill further to placate Republicans concerned that the bill’s prohibitions on being near dead animals (as well as live ones) might actually prevent people convicted under the statute from being near food.

“I don’t know how to answer a conspiracy theory,” Morrell says. “There’s no evidence that the bill does that. What you hear from people is that they don’t trust me because I’m a Democrat from New Orleans.

“The bestiality law as currently stated is in an unconstitutional statute,” Morrell added. We already have a Supreme Court decision on the books saying that you cannot have sodomy laws on the books. Bestiality is literally tied to the sodomy law that was ruled unconstitutional, so I am removing bestiality from the unconstitutional statute and giving it its own statute.”

The bill now heads to the House floor, where it is expected to be voted on in the coming days.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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